Get family involved in retirement planning
Recently I was engaged in discussions with individuals concerned about the welfare of retired family members, so today’s topic is at the request of a colleague who feels this issue is too important to be ignored.
She expressed the view that families need to discuss with their adult parents their retirement plans long before parents retire from the workforce, as it becomes problematic late in life when seeking cooperation on life-changing matters. There is the case of an elderly mother who planned on selling her home and relocating to a state in the United States where she will have little or no contact with her family. She has lots of real estate and other assets, but the family members cannot account for all of her assets. Consulting with her children regarding decision-making seems futile, even though her children are highly successful professionals who do not need financial assistance. The intransigent actions of this senior is, however, of concern to her family.
Studies by social scientists indicate that elderly adults who offer support to other people demonstrate heightened well-being and improved health whereas those who depend on the help of others tend to display negative moods. Dr Marci Gleason of the University of Texas, Austin, found that older people who earlier in their lives spent many years taking care of their children don’t look forward to being dependent on their children and find it hard to accept help from them. These parents want to feel needed and accepting help can “signal that you are not needed”.
Gerontologist Dr Allison Heid conducted a study that measured “adult children’s perception of stubbornness among their aging parents”. The study found that 77 per cent of the adult children surveyed (average age 55) said their parents depicted stubbornness sometimes and two-thirds of the parents (average age 80) considered themselves to be stubborn.
Dr Heid, however, is of the view that stubbornness can be a positive trait as it shows determination, perseverance, the quality of being independent, and a sense of authority. On the other hand, Dr Heid reported that stubbornness can have serious consequences. In one study of over 400 middle-aged children their response to parents’ stubborn behaviour was “avoidance”. In my view, this reaction by children can lead to a no-win situation, causing a deterioration in parent/child relationships. The study showed that reasoning works to help both parent and child listen to each other and create an atmosphere that will engender dialogue.
Another discussion I had last week relates to a man who lost his wife a year ago and his health has now deteriorated, sparking debate among his children whether to have him placed in a home. His children are divided on the course of action. One sibling believes that he needs specialised care in a private home and the other sibling thinks he should remain at home. The cost to provide a full-time caregiver is prohibitive and the parent’s pension is only sufficient to cover the basic cost of residing in a private nursing home. The family subsequently realised that the discussion regarding where their parent should reside should have been discussed while their parents were working adults. There are not sufficient resources for medical care and the children are burdened with responsibilities of their own.
I want to stress the importance of involving family in the discussion when planning for retirement. All costs and potential issues, such as residential homes, nursing care, medical or health care, and the relevant contingencies should be covered in one’s retirement plan. How do you plan to spend your years in retirement? One survey among retirees revealed that they believe that being a burden to family members is worse than running out of money later in life.
It is therefore important that adult workers start planning for retirement early. Discuss retirement plans with family members so there is an understanding of any possible shortfalls, and together families can work together to ensure that the retirement years are lived comfortably instead of in distress and great anxiety. It’s a family affair!